So Keith Richards owes his childhood library about 3000 pounds as reported by the media,
This bothers me because the only reference to libraries in popular media occurs when someone famous owes our establishment an overdue book, thereby incurring our wrath. As a ‘popular’ depiction of a public library, it sucks.
Surely we’re more than the priggish, tight-bunned authoritarians we’re depicted as?
Well, most public librarians would’ve just wanted the book back. The money would’ve been incidental. Which if you’re a none librarian person (or Academic Librarian) should be a bit of shocker really. Public Librarians don’t in fact, care about the money.
Well I don’t.
It’s not like the fines go back into the library in any case, well not in South Africa. You see in South Africa, Public Libraries are not supposed to make a profit. But that doesn’t stop our patrons from offering money-making suggestions. I have to regularly fend off suggestions to sell whole collections to fund further book purchases, or hiring out video machines to people who want to make use of our video cassettes (yes, we still have them).
When I calmly told the video-machine-suggestion guy that we could not, in fact, purposefully make some money, he got angry.
How dare we not make money!
And then he damned the government to a fiery hell.
As enthusiastic as his borderline sedition was, I tried valiantly to explain that Libraries are a function defined by the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. And as a Function, we couldn’t charge money for anything that we could then use to buy anything with, as well as the various laws and that inform Government departments what they charge for. I thought about explaining the whole unfunded mandate thing (The thing: The local authority is paying for the library service even though the provincial government should pay) and how the Local Authority Libraries Bylaw of 1990 (which says that fees could be levied) is essentially squashed by the Constitution, but I don’t think he would have cared.
The thing is (sedition talk again), I don’t have a problem with Public Libraries not making money, in fact I think we’re making too much of it as it is. Public Libraries charge administrative costs for reserving books and of course late fees for overdue books. It always seemed to me we were monetarily punishing people for liking books and punishing the poor for not having ‘means’.The argument for maintaining these fees is that they’re administrative costs. But let’s break those costs down: Paper, a Writing implement, Electricity, a Computer and the Computer System.
Now as far as I know, all our costs are covered by the Local Authority (this is a matter of public record so the Managerial Finger Twinge of Firing, the MFTF, should not come into play) who in turn gets monies from the National Government, who in turn gets it from SARS(South African Revenue Service - Tax collectors in the American vernacular) and other fees and levies the National Government gets paid.
So why charge another fee, when it’s covered already by these Taxes and levies that we are in fact paying already?
The Other Thing is:
Public Libraries are so intrinsically linked to the image of the punishing fines we charge, our only real claim to fame is our Fine Amnesty week, timed in South Africa to coincide with National Library Week (because like love and marriage, you couldn’t one without the other, or a horse and carriage.) Stripped of that ability to fine people, what would we then have to define ourselves by?
Sadly though, I would give my left arm for a ‘Keith’ and his lax attitude to due dates, just so I could have some media attention for my Library or my neighboring Library or the Library Service. Well, attention that isn’t subsumed by the Local Authorities Corporate restrictions and a Managerial whimsy for rigid control of rank and file Voices. (Is that a Lightning bolt I spy in the distance.)
Whatcha gonna do?
Does anyone know if some drug addled and time ravaged South African rocker has some overdue library books?
Anyone Else but?